U. Geographers and volunteers help map world disasters

On October 26, 2015 , Tim Edgar and Seth Bishop organized students from the University of Utah and community volunteers to use satellite images to paint a more detailed picture of the damage caused by a pair of disasters, and reveal the best routes to bring aid to the regions. Over the previous weekend Hurrican Patricia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, made landfall northwest of Manzanilla, Mexico, and on Monday morning a massive earthquake struck deep beneath the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan. 

Participants across the world use satellite snapshots from before and after to reveal damage and possible transport routes for emergency responders. The students hope the pictures will help government agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and other aid and recovery groups.

Students pull up the images through OpenStreetMap, a shareable online data set akin to a Wikipedia for topography. They trace and download trends in data, as well as lines and polygons that can be used for deeper analysis.  The group joined an association of volunteers for OpenStreetMap who have stepped in after other natural disasters, including the earthquakes in Nepal, Haiti and Japan.

Salt Lake Tribune story

University Press release

AFP Photo-Shahid Bukharishahid